A Montessori Field Trip: Westside Montessori

Although I currently teach in a Montessori Upper Elementary 9-12 year old classroom and love it, as most people know, my heart will always belong to 3-6. However, what most people don’t know is that right in the middle of my Montessori heart there is a small yet brightly glowing centre and that centre is a well executed Montessori infant toddler programme.

I have been so fortunate to know Bettina from Westside Montessori School for almost as long as Quentin has been earth side but due to COVID last year and us being in Nigeria the year before, this was the first time I’d ever been able to observe in her infant toddler summer programme.

It was worth the wait.

The attention to even the smallest detail is something Westside is known for. From simple puzzles for the youngest child to a beautifully laid out movement area for toddlers on the go, the environment welcomes everyone.

Mischa, the lead Montessori Guide whom I’ve met previously was so welcoming of me being in the space and we chatted about life as we both now have university aged kids, but what I loved most were her interactions with the children. She was kind and patient but also light hearted. Even when a young child stood precariously on top of the slide, which by the way holds the most fondest of memories for me (if you’ve been round for awhile you may remember scenes like this).

Perhaps what is the most amazing aspect of this infant toddler space is that during the school year it is an equally stunning and detailed elementary classroom (did you notice the empty bed cabinet) and so every single elementary material must be carefully packed away into on site storage and the artwork lowered to bring it down to a toddler’s sight line. So much hard work and dedication from the staff and I’m grateful to have been able to see it before I return to my own classroom in the coming weeks.

If you are new to Montessori and wondering what to look for in a school space for your child, the list is simple:

  • A clean, bright, well thought out space
  • Montessori classroom materials specific to the age group and the ability for each child to proceed through those materials at their own pace (unsure just ask)
  • A focus on independence for the child regardless of age
  • A Montessori trained Guide that cares deeply for the children in the environment, not only speaking in a manner learned in their Montessori training but also experiences joy right along with the children

A Montessori field trip: A trip to Fruitful Orchard Montessori in Nigeria

This has been a trip that has been a long time coming. 6 years in the making. And so, after months of planning, vaccinations and packing we are finally here.

I love travelling around the world to visit different Montessori environments. This one is particularity near and dear to my heart because I have been here (in spirit anyway) from the beginning. Before there was a school or children to fill it.

There is a vibrant and beautiful 3-6 classroom here and I will feature it in an upcoming post but what I wanted to focus on firstly was the Toddler Community at Fruitful Orchard. Authentic Toddler communities are hard to find in Canada and we don’t have a single one in our own community despite the fact that we have two Montessori schools that go from 3-6 all the way through high school.

It has all the tell tale signs: tiny chairs and tables, light, bright and airy, but it also has some gorgeous personal touches that the owner Junnifa Uzodike has carefully arranged.

The beautiful artwork and custom fabrics immediately caught my eye. The tiny carved reading bench with hand made cushion is just perfect for two small friends to sit together and look at books. As a side note the books featured are excellent for toddlers.

Perhaps the best part of this Prepared Environment is the tiny working sink, counter and real working oven at a toddler’s height. So often we see the opportunity to cook with heat taken away from toddlers. Here they regularly bake.

The Vocabulary shelves offer the toddlers a rich variety of new language and the chance to explore different items.

One of the most important part of a Montessori Toddler Community is the Practical Life lessons. Care of Self and Care of Others are the foundation of the Montessori Toddler years. That’s why when we knew we were coming I contacted Miniland USA and they rush delivered not only their beautiful dolls but also some warm weather outfits.

Toddlers love repeating. This little one removed the clothes of the doll, named all the body parts and put the clothes on again and again. It is so important for a young child to be able to see this Cycle of Activity through. The repeated fine motor movements and vocabulary solidifies key social neurological concepts that they move forward and build on. Dolls that a child can identify with (either by hair colour, eye colour, skin tone, genitals or physical features such as freckles, scars or implants) are incredibly important for all children. It gives them a chance to see them self and to practice all those Care of Self and Others lessons they have been working on. Often a child will mimic with a doll what they have experienced in their day.

We have been here a week and have a month left to teach in the 3-6 classroom, offer consulting and just spend time. The memories formed here will last long after we leave.

Montessori friendly infant materials: Giveway

Ethically sourced, chemical free, Montessori compatible infant materials are often hard find. We love discovering local shops that have both quality and Montessori at the forefront of their design so when Anson the owner of CUBOS approached us to test their new shape sorter the CUBOS-lite, we were thrilled.

Made from hardwood, finished in a natural beeswax polish, the pieces are stunning, easy to grasp and fit easily through their correct holes. The easy open lid will delight children as they can store more than just the accompanying blocks inside.

The CUBOS-lite Kickstarter campaign opened yesterday and can be found here for anyone looking to purchase this beautiful Canadian made heirloom toy.

We are so thrilled with it that we are giving one CUBOS-lite away starting today on our Instagram feed found here. Follow the link for your chance to win!

A Montessori field trip: A trip to The Nest

“A child in his earliest years, when he is approaching two or a little more, is capable of tremendous achievements” – Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child

I love being able to travel and experience other places of the world. I also love being able to experience new Montessori environments, although often times I find them missing something. I suppose it comes from seeing so many over the years and being so passionate about the pedagogy. I just have a very high bar. 

However when a new Montessori Nido (Infant/Toddler Environment) is in your hometown, you simply can’t pass up the opportunity to go view it. 

It didn’t disappoint. 


The Nest which opened in January is absolutely stunning. It’s well lit with natural light, thoughtfully laid out and full of gorgeous custom made infant/toddler furniture. 


Sometimes in Nido’s, that prepared, clean aesthetic that is found in the older classrooms is missed. It’s not intentional. It’s simply that it’s extremely difficult to take the miniature of the 3-6 classroom and shrink it again for the 0-3. This wasn’t the case here. It’s as if the staples of the 3-6 classroom were perfectly shrunk to scale.


Everything from the tiny cubbies to the Care of Environment area was well thought out, carefully prepared and beautifully executed. 


Even the micro sized hand washing station made me smile as it is the exact shelf I use in my 3-6 classroom for my calendar work. 


Of course when the custom shelves look this inviting, a Montessori child can’t help themselves. They simply have to roll out a micro sized work mat and set to work. 


Quentin gravitated toward the things he himself enjoyed not all that long ago, such as the coin sorting box (shown on our home shelves here). He moved around the classroom with the excitement he shows in his own 3-6 class. He asked why the fish tank had a bridge, a reasonable question from a boy who has spent his entire life in the literal, logical world of Montessori. 

He was met with a kind, and logical answer from the Directress and owner Alison: 

There used to be a snail. 


Alison is a Mom of 3 Montessori kids aged 7, 4 and 2.5. She trained in Toronto and saw a need in this rural/urban community for a Nido. She currently guides six children that range in age from 14 months to 3 years. She welcomed us in with little notice and graciously let us explore her environment. She chose to have everything from the shelves to the tiny chairs custom made to ensure they were at the correct height and the attention to detail does not go unnoticed. 


Did you notice the culturally diverse books in the reading corner and the bird viewing area prepared in the middle window above? I did. 

It’s these kind of details that set this space apart in my mind. That meet and surpass that high bar. And it’s these kinds of intangible details families ought to be looking for when they are touring Montessori classrooms. 

  • Is the space filled with natural light? 
  • Is there thought and design aesthetic in the furniture, the seating areas? 
  • Are the large materials truly the right size for the children that are using them or are they just cut down versions?

Most importantly, does the environment call to the child. If it does, a child regardless of age should run to the shelves and become sucked in by the beauty of the Prepared Environment.

It was an absolute pleasure observing this space. If you want to know more about Alison’s work you can find it here on her website or follow along with her Instagram account here.

Montessori in the Home: ideas for infants

“The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. It lays the whole basis for his character and social behaviour. He must find out how to concentrate, and for this he needs things to concentrate upon. This shows the importance of his surroundings, for no one acting on the child from outside can cause him to concentrate. Only he can organize his psychic life.”
The Absorbent Mind p 202, Chap 22

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I have always advocated for the belief that it is not the “stuff” but the experiences that are important to a child. A song sung by a loved one is just as stimulating as any gadget to a baby. However, I’m asked on occasion for ideas of Montessori inspired infant materials, so I thought I’d share a few.
At a basic level you are looking for something that will delight the child, but many would be surprised where that delight can come from.
From a Montessori perspective, the items would ideally be made of natural materials. This gives the child an accurate sensorial experience. Wood feels very different from wicker and cotton very different from steel, but all plastic feels the same. Loud sounds and bright lights offer little in the way of concentration and often overwhelm or overstimulate.
In the very early months, mobiles and mirrors that an infant can concentrate on are often all that is required for “toys”.

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I love mobiles. There are a series of Montessori Infant Mobiles that can easily be made/bought, but it takes very little time to attach some items to a base and hang it from the ceiling. I made the above mobile by cutting out circles from some pretty paper I had and then stringing them into chains and hung it from a ring. This is not one of the Montessori mobiles, but is simple, beautiful and allows him to concentrate.

Black and white images printed onto cards are a favourite as well with younger infants. There are many out there. I love
Wee Gallery Art Cards. There are also many beautiful Montessori inspired options on Etsy.

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In the background on Quentin’s first low shelves are some “Treasure Baskets”. When the child is more mobile, they love looking at, grabbing, mouthing, listening to items in a treasure basket. Both Deb and Kylie have great ideas for treasure baskets for young infants. Even at this age a child has a strong sense of order. Baskets are usually kept to a single idea. You can put anything in them. A kitchen basket may have a spatula, flipper and whisk. Or maybe sounds. Or colours. The possibilities are truly endless.

The brown box on Quentin’s shelves is a homemade Object Permanence Box. I made it out of a square post office mailing box and covered it with kraft paper. I made three: a large round hole and ball, a small round hole and cylinder shaped block and a small square hole and square block. These are a great challenge for older infants. He used them right up until just after his first birthday.

These were his first materials. We supplemented these with lots of books and music and outdoor time. Looking back a year later, it went so quickly. It’s often a huge stress for parents to provide the “right toys for optimal development”. I think what’s important to focus on instead is providing quiet uninterrupted time for the child to concentrate and explore their world.